A Nail of a Different Color
This past Monday, the farrier showed up to do his usual rounds of horse shoes when something different was visible in his farrier caddy. He had a box of the usual steel nails, but next to that box was something unusual: copper nails.
Copper nails in the farrier's caddy.
Too Good to be True?
The farrier stated that initially he didn’t believe that copper coated nails could have such a positive impact on hoof health. He couldn’t see how adding a copper coating to a nail could prevent bacteria from entering the hoof wall, simultaneously discouraging hoof issues such as white line disease or seedy toe. He was later specifically asked by a client for copper coated nails so he decided to give them a try. The farrier said he changed his mind about the copper nails when he put one in his mouth; he could taste the copper for the rest of the day. If having a nail in your mouth for a few seconds could have that lasting effect, why couldn’t the nails affect the health of a horse’s hoof for a shoeing cycle?
Mario Aguilar, a Southern California farrier, explained that he had first seen the copper coated nails used on horses coming over from Europe. He said that horses in Europe tend to live on rice hulls. Rice hulls tend to hold more moisture and can’t be cleaned up as easily as shavings. The copper coated nails prevent bacteria from entering the foot through nail holes. According to him, horses that come over from Europe with white line and seedy toe are showing improvement with copper coated nails.
Shoeing with copper nails.
Copper and its Antimicrobial Properties
Copper has been used for its antimicrobial properties for decades. According to antimicrobialcopper.com, copper has clearly demonstrated in multiple scientific studies conducted over “several decades that copper has rapid, broad spectrum antimicrobial efficacy against some of the most toxic species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.” Antimicrobial copper surfaces are shown to have 80% less bacterial contamination than standard surfaces.
White Line, Copper Nails
White line and seedy toe are common diseases in horse hooves, often causing the horses problem hooves to need hoof resection and daily treatment. Horses can even need time off if the hoof resection area is big enough. Hoof resection is the process in which the farrier has to cut away part of the outer hoof wall to prevent the white line disease from spreading any further into the inner and upper hoof wall. The removal of the outer hoof wall makes it easier and more effective to treat the affected part of the hoof. Farriers have started using the copper coated nails on horses with current and previous cases of white line disease. Copper coated nails are used in current cases of white line or seedy toe to prevent the spreading of bacteria through the nail holes. You can use copper coated nails in former cases of horses with white line or seedy toe in the hopes of preventing recurrence.
Who Made These Nails?
The Royal Kerckhaert Horseshoe Factory has made the first horseshoe nail in over 1,000 years that does more than hold a horseshoe on. Liberty Cu nails, made by the Royal Kerckhaert Horseshoe Factory, offer more protection than traditional, steel horseshoe nails. The copper coating prevents rust and is extra smooth and extra sharp, causing less damage to the horn material inside the hoof. The extra sharp nails also eliminate chipping on the outside of the hoof. Kerckhaert explains that every time a farrier drives a nail into a horse’s hoof, it damages the horn material. Steel nails tend to rust and weaken the hoof wall over time. Kerckhaert is the first horseshoe maker to address this issue by applying a special copper coating (Cu) directly onto the Liberty horseshoe nails. According to Kerckhaert, the copper coating does not wear off, so the protection lasts the entire shoeing cycle. Kerckhaert has also made the innovative copper coated Liberty Cu nails affordable, not a “luxury item”. “Maintaining strong, sound hooves are equally important in all horses, including every riding horse that is used for recreational purposes.”
Do Your Research!
While we couldn’t find any studies on the effects of copper coated nails when used in horse shoeing, we did find many farrier supply websites that promise healthier hooves with copper coated nails. According to Well-Shod.com, the Royal Kerckhaert Horseshoe Factory is “once again changing the way we are shoeing our horses on a daily basis." In creating the Liberty Cu horseshoe nail, the Royal Kerckhaert Horseshoe factory has made a major step towards healthier hooves. Well-shod.com says that the copper coated nails offer more protection than the traditional steel horseshoe nails. Well-Shod.com also states that the copper coated nails “completely eliminate bacteria entering the hoof wall through the nail holes, so hooves remain strong and healthy." Not only are the nails designed to benefit the horse better than the traditional horseshoe nails, but using the copper nails causes less damage to the hoof wall, eliminates rust and wear inside the hoof wall, creating stronger and healthier hooves.
Finding the Right Balance
Farriers are starting to notice a “massive” improvement on the health of some horses hooves after using the Liberty Cu copper coated nails, says a spokesman from Stromsholm, Kerckhaert’s UK distributer. It took Kerckhaert some time to find the the right combination of use and benefits, according to Martin Kerckhaert. First, the company tested purely copper nails, but they were too soft. The coating on the nails had to be not so thick that it would impair the nail, but not so thin that it would rub off before the end of the shoeing cycle. Horse and Hound vet Karen Coumbe thinks copper coated nails may be worth monitoring. “There appears to be some evidence for the antimicrobial effects of copper, and a growing interest in the light of antibiotic resistance — I think it needs looking at more closely,” she said.
Copper nails in the horse hoof, prior to filing.
Still Not Convinced?
A vet was out at the barn a few days after the initial sighting of the copper nails, so we asked him for his opinion. The vet told us that he believes in using the copper coated nails for horses with white line disease and seedy toe. He explained that the copper stops the bacteria that is already in the hoof wall from spreading further into the healthy hoof wall when the nail drives through the hoof. He then said that copper is a very powerful element and a natural antimicrobial material. His conclusion is that copper coated nails certainly can’t hurt your horse’s hooves, so if you are experiencing white line disease or other bacterial hoof problems, why not give the nails a try?